What does Away Mode Do, Anyway?

Some have asked for more detail on Away Mode and what it does:

Away Mode does the following when invoked:

  • Shuts down the video signal at the port

  • Mutes all system audio

  • Blocks HID and PS/2 input devices (so your cat does not walk across the “delete” key and delete your library)

  • Puts the CPU into “adaptive” mode, which may save power depending on what’s running

  • Notifies kernel-mode and user-mode components of the transition (enables HW like video cards to clock-down or front-panel displays to change content, enables SW to do “smart” things like IM going to “away”)

  • Notifies the BIOS through an ACPI control method of the transition (enables the power LED to change from green to whatever, enables a different thermal profile to be put in place if the OEM decides)

  • Wakes back up when flash devices (USB FOB, flash card) are inserted

  • Wakes back up when an optical disc is inserted in the drive

The intention here is to provide a “user not present” state to the machine so you can walk away, know that your recording is going to happen (or not be interrupted) while not badgering the user with a screen, audio, etc.  It is *not* intended to be a power management state. Today, this is the only way to ensure that your media center extender will always work w/o having to worry if your MCE host is turned on or not.  Also is great in that the system does not have to wake from S3 to record – and become noisy in the process.


To be clear though - Away Mode is only offered with new PCs. Maybe not popular at the moment, but the best way to make sure that Away Mode machines work as advertised.

Comments (9)
  1. Aaron says:

    Thanks so much for the write-up on Away Mode.

    Two quick questions:

    1) For those of us feeling "adventurous", is there a way to enable Away Mode on our machine to see if it works?

    2) Would this also tell MCE to stop recording Live TV to the hard drive? I mean, when you press the "stop" button during Live TV, MCE keeps writing it to the hard drive. It makes sense, but it’s a little aggravating when you go to bed and the hard drive spins away all night.

    In order to stop all the hard drive activity I think you need to exit MCE altogether (or do some workaround like start playing My Music, then stop it). I have an extender, so I’m generally not inclined to put the machine in standby. And I’d like to keep the MCE interface open all the time so that people don’t see the Windows desktop when they turn on the TV.

    It seems like Away Mode would be a great solution for this problem (and I’d love to give this feature a spin if at all possible).

    Anyway, thanks again!

  2. MSDN Archive says:

    There is no way to enable away mode. It is actually an update to the OS itself (you get a change to the power management control panel). You’d need an installer for it.

    I’d love to give it out to everyone but that decision really isn’t mine. I’ll certainly send that feedback to the away mode team.

    Per the live TV caching – away mode doesn’t affect that. As far as I know you can’t turn that off. We’ve actually had a lot of requests to do this for both tuners regardless of what else we’re doing – so your take is interesting to me.

    Best bet would be the workaround you have – though when recording starts you’ll hear the HD (obvious, I know but I’m like that).

    I’ll keep this feedback in mind for future discussions.

  3. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the very quick reply (on a Saturday night no less)!

    Re: Live TV caching. The advantages of caching are obvious and it makes a lot of sense. I just wish there was a way to easily tell MCE "ok, I’m not watching TV anymore, give the hard drive a breather!"

    Far from my biggest feature request, but just something of a minor annoyance. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing Away Mode in action. Any idea if these machines are on the market yet?

  4. Jimmy Grewal says:

    Hi David, does the new Sony Vaio XL1 support the Away Mode you describe above?

  5. MSDN Archive says:

    I don’t know of any machines that are out yet, but let me do some checking.

    I’ll also check on the Sony model you asked about.

  6. MSDN Archive says:

    All right – did a bit of checking. According to the Away Mode group:

    Most new HPs have Away Mode

    The Shuttle M1000 has it http://sys.us.shuttle.com/m1000.aspx

    Still checking on the specific Sony (directly with Sony) so I’ll have more on that soon I hope.

  7. MSDN Archive says:

    The Sony box doesn’t have Away Mode on it right now. Maybe the next gen…

  8. Andrew Tran says:

    I understand that Away Mode is a component of Windows XP Media Center at the OS level. At the hardware level, is it a seperate component from ACPI or is it part of ACPI?

    Would I be able to see the Away Mode as a device in Device Manager?


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